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What Is the Cause of Soup? Stats Blender Errors.
How "the stats" are being used often causes a fog of low-quality quantification. Multiple regression is widely misunderstood by researchers and journalists.
Soup-to-nuts woes can vex “the stats.” Questions about soup show how nuts the situation has gotten.
1. Researchers and journalists are causing a fog of low-quality quantification by reporting data that’s often “somewhere between meaningless and quite damaging,” says Richard Nisbett.
4. Journalists should warn up front that readers are “quite likely to get non-information or misinformation.” Better yet, editors shouldn’t waste reader time.
5. Nesbit blames multiple regression, the standard way to calculate correlations, which is widely misused by “experts” (ditto “statistical significance”).
6. Statistical methods excel with independent factors and unmixed types. Fruitful quantification needs sound qualitative distinctions, or you’re blending apples & oranges (data—>embedded assumptions + metaphors).
7. On average, humans have one testicle + one ovary. Mixed types = iffy stats.
8. Beyond Nesbit’s concerns, what “cause of” means now seems unclear. Biology, the social sciences, and history all need richer concepts of causation than physics (+see Isaiah Berlin’s two kinds of “because”).
10. Does asking, “What is the cause of soup?” make sense? Or what percent is caused by each ingredient? Or what percent of the cause is its recipe? That’s what multiple regression analysis asks.
11. As with soup, so with cancer, or schizophrenia. They’re not homogenous, and don’t have simple causes. Each results from multi-ingredient, multistep processes (their logic can include ... sufficient but not necessary, like many paths to a mountaintop).
12. Such process-dependent composite phenomena can resist quantitative analysis. Again, what percent of the cause of soup is its recipe? It’s inseparable. Meaningless to quantify.
13. Journalists describing a genetic variant that’s “hardly enough to cause schizophrenia; far too many other factors...” cause confusion by also referring to “the cause of schizophrenia” ( ≠ singular cause).
14. Randomized clinical trials are multiple-regression monsters. Their spread beyond medicine risks metaphor errors — e.g., using smartphones is like taking pills. Always consider response types. Is the situation like physics or physiology or history? Billiard balls and kidneys respond consistently. People less so.
15. Aristotle described four kinds of cause: material, formal, proximate, and final. For a table = wood, design, carpenter, and wanting a workspace. Updating Aristotle ... causation can need a recipe.
17. Beyond knowing that correlation ≠ causation, always consider the complexity of “causes.” Not all quantification = useful. Putting all data through the stats blender can be nuts.
Illustration by Julia Suits, The New Yorker Cartoonist & author of The Extraordinary Catalog of Peculiar Inventions.
This storm rained electrons, shifted energy from the sun's rays to the magnetosphere, and went unnoticed for a long time.
- An international team of scientists has confirmed the existence of a "space hurricane" seven years ago.
- The storm formed in the magnetosphere above the North magnetic pole.
- The storm posed to risk to life on Earth, though it might have interfered with some electronics.
What do you call that kind of storm when it forms over the Arctic ocean?<iframe width="730" height="430" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/8GqnzBJkWcw" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe><p> Many objects in space, like Earth, the Sun, most of the planets, and even some large moons, have magnetic fields. The area around these objects which is affected by these fields is known as the magnetosphere.</p><p>For us Earthlings, the magnetosphere is what protects us from the most intense cosmic radiation and keeps the solar wind from affecting our atmosphere. When charged particles interact with it, we see the aurora. Its fluctuations lead to changes in what is known as "space weather," which can impact electronics. </p><p>This "space hurricane," as the scientists are calling it, was formed by the interactions between Earth's magnetosphere and the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interplanetary_magnetic_field" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">interplanetary magnetic field,</a> the part of the sun's magnetosphere that goes out into the solar system. It took on the familiar shape of a cyclone as it followed magnetic fields. For example, the study's authors note that the numerous arms traced out the "footprints of the reconnected magnetic field lines." It rotated counter-clockwise with a speed of nearly 7,000 feet per second. The eye, of course, was still and <a href="https://www.sciencealert.com/for-the-first-time-a-plasma-hurricane-has-been-detected-in-space" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">calm</a>.</p><p>The storm, which was invisible to the naked eye, rained electrons and shifted energy from space into the ionosphere. It seems as though such a thing can only form under calm situations when large amounts of energy are moving between the solar wind and the upper <a href="https://www.reading.ac.uk/news-and-events/releases/PR854520.aspx" target="_blank">atmosphere</a>. These conditions were modeled by the scientists using 3-D <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-021-21459-y#Sec10" target="_blank">imaging</a>.<br><br>Co-author Larry Lyons of UCLA explained the process of putting the data together to form the models to <a href="https://www.nbcnews.com/science/space/space-hurricane-rained-electrons-observed-first-time-rcna328" target="_blank">NBC</a>:<br><br>"We had various instruments measuring various things at different times, so it wasn't like we took a big picture and could see it. The really fun thing about this type of work is that we had to piece together bits of information and put together the whole picture."<br><br>He further mentioned that these findings were completely unexpected and that nobody that even theorized a thing like this could exist. <br></p><p>While this storm wasn't a threat to any life on Earth, a storm like this could have noticeable effects on space weather. This study suggests that this could have several effects, including "increased satellite drag, disturbances in High Frequency (HF) radio communications, and increased errors in over-the-horizon radar location, satellite navigation, and communication systems."</p><p>The authors <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-021-21459-y#Sec8" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">speculate</a> that these "space hurricanes" could also exist in the magnetospheres of other planets.</p><p>Lead author Professor Qing-He Zhang of Shandong University discussed how these findings will influence our understanding of the magnetosphere and its changes with <a href="https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2021-03/uor-sho030221.php" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">EurekaAlert</a>:</p><p>"This study suggests that there are still existing local intense geomagnetic disturbance and energy depositions which is comparable to that during super storms. This will update our understanding of the solar wind-magnetosphere-ionosphere coupling process under extremely quiet geomagnetic conditions."</p>
Research reveals a new evolutionary feature that separates humans from other primates.
- Researchers find a new feature of human evolution.
- Humans have evolved to use less water per day than other primates.
- The nose is one of the factors that allows humans to be water efficient.
A model of water turnover for humans and chimpanzees who have similar fat free mass and body water pools.
Credit: Current Biology
Being skeptical isn't just about being contrarian. It's about asking the right questions of ourselves and others to gain understanding.
- It's not always easy to tell the difference between objective truth and what we believe to be true. Separating facts from opinions, according to skeptic Michael Shermer, theoretical physicist Lawrence Krauss, and others, requires research, self-reflection, and time.
- Recognizing your own biases and those of others, avoiding echo chambers, actively seeking out opposing voices, and asking smart, testable questions are a few of the ways that skepticism can be a useful tool for learning and growth.
- As Derren Brown points out, being "skeptical of skepticism" can also lead to interesting revelations and teach us new things about ourselves and our psychology.